May is the month of Mother’s Day, a day we remember all mothers. I was submitted the following article titled, Maui Mamas in ‘Out of State’ Prisons a few months ago and feel this month’s issue would be a good time to publish. It is a powerfully charged piece. –Editor
Thousands of Hawaii’s prisoners are shipped to private prisons on the mainland. This wrecks havoc on the lives of the prisoners, their families, and their children. Visits become difficult, if not impossible. The children are collateral damage. Parents come home to children who don’t know them.
Former governor Linda Lingle, received hefty campaign contributions from Corrections Corp of America (CCA), a private for-profit prison complex. In return Lingle signed a 3 strikes law that mandates terms 30 years to life terms for 3 time felons, guaranteeing a constant supply of prisoners to CCA.
90% of women prisoners in Hawaii are incarcerated for non-violent crimes. Many of these women are in for substance abuse and need treatment. There have been repeated contract violations by CCA for failing to provide adequate medical and rehab services. There have been numerous riots involving Hawaii’s prisoners in CCA prisons.
There have been no reported riots at Halawa prison, Hawaii’s largest. The private prisons are rife with allegations of rape by prison guards. Reports of riots, numerous assaults, gang activity, drug trafficking, and racism abound. CCA charges less than the cost of housing prisoners in Hawaii. CCA profits by selling prisoner labor to for-profit corporations, including Microsoft, Toys R Us, Starbucks, US Steel, and Honda. Prisoners make pennies on the dollar with CCA pocketing the bulk of the salary.
Hawaiian prisoners brought a lawsuit protesting out of state incarceration. The state Supreme Court ruled that prisoners have no right to be confined in a particular prison, region, or state. Kat Brady is the coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons, which works to create interventions for Hawaii’s non-violent offenders. Brady states, “Most of these women would be better served in community programs to directly address their needs: drug addiction, PTSD resulting from various forms of abuse, and anger management.” Mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training, education, parenting, and alternative dispute resolution classes help. The Woman’s Voice International reports that a majority of women in our correctional system are non-violent and pose no threat to public safety. 2000, 99% of incarcerated women could be better served in community-based programs.
Marilyn Brown, professor of sociology at University of Hawaii Hilo said, “Hawaii’s out of state inmate transfers are a strange throwback to corrections policies of two or three centuries ago, when felons were banished to penal colonies in Australia or the New World.”
Honor all mothers.
Image Credit: Shannon Brown